Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thoughts on Christian Musicianship

There are essentially two settings in which Christian musicians participate: worship in the private church setting and worship in the public setting.  These, I believe, have different goals and different ways in which to perform one’s music.
                First: the public sector.  This includes radio, live performances (gigs, if you will), recordings, and really anywhere else that’s not leading worship for a church.  If you read my last post, I shared my disliking for the Contemporary Christian music scene, mostly with regards to its lyrics.  In addition, they also fail in their musicianship.  Look at the great bands of the past; Chuck Berry, Little Richard, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Eagles, Van Halen.  These guys made incredible music for themselves or for whatever earthly motive they had.  Christian musicians make music for the all-powerful and almighty GOD.  They have no excuse but to make music beyond themselves.  Shoddy composition and poor skill is simply unacceptable.  I have the same problems with basically all popular music, Christian or not, but you won’t see me writing too much about the terrible hip-hop “musicians” these days because Christian musicians should be held to a higher standard.  You all have heard the story of Cain, Abel, and their offerings to God.  The Christian musician, as an act of worship, should give to the very best of his ability.  Christian music listeners: support musicians who use their God-given talents to the best of their abilities. To the musicians content with creating endless covers of “Shout to the Lord”, who think that knowing the A, G, and F Major progressions are “good enough”: I urge you to hone your craft and give the best that you can possibly give to the God of the universe.  I believe creating and playing music is a gift of God as well as one of the greatest ways to worship Him.  Become the best you can to glorify God because He is worthy of the greatest music.  Make that great music.
                OK, I’ll stop preaching and continue on with those who lead worship.  I don’t revoke anything I said in the last paragraph; however, I want to clarify. If you are in a setting in which your music leads a group of people in worship, do not perform such that it is distracting for those whom you are leading.  Your perfect guitar solo is awesome for your personal worship, but when people stop noticing God through you and just notice you, it becomes a problem.  I’ll steal a metaphor from my good friend and mentor Randy Parker.  In a church setting, the stage, the lights, the sound, and the music should be a mirror that points to God.  Even if what you the musician are doing is completely for God’s glory, you have to remember that the audience may see you instead of the reflection of God in you.  I’m not saying to hold back your skill as a musician.  I’m saying that the better Christian musician should know what is appropriate to play while leading congregational worship.
Now, on to the listeners.  I think it’s OK if the music you sing in your church services is different than the music you listen to on a daily basis.  Congregational worship is meant to lead the widest possible audience in musical worship.  I realize God did not give everyone equal musical skills.  So, I’m OK with church music being simple and lacking some musical prowess.  All I’m really saying is that it isn’t the case that this is the ONLY kind of worship music.  This post is largely a reaction to those who want to box up and keep their “Jesus music” in church, or having simplistic music and lyrics.  There are wonderful Christian musicians out there.  You just have to peek your head out of the “Contemporary Christian” genre to find them.

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